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Wednesday, April 15, 1998 Published at 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK

Party fundraising background

Sir Patrick Neill's committee will look at every aspect of political party funding. That includes the issue of state funding of political parties, limits on election expenditure, limits on individual and company donations, transparency of donations, funding arrangements for opposition parties and publication of gifts from individuals.

Lord Neill outlines the task facing his Committee
It is the Committee on Standards in Public Life's first examination of political party funding. John Major had excluded the issue of party funding from the committee's remit when he established it in October 1994.

Election spending has rocketed in the last 10 years, according to political analysts David Butler and Dennis Kavanagh.

The Conservatives have more than doubled party expenditure from £9m in 1987 to £20m in 1997. And Labour has more than trebled the money it spends - from £4.2m in 1987 to £14m in 1997.

In the two years leading up to the 1997 General Election, Labour spent £27m. It is believed the Tories spent £10m on the "demon eyes" campaign alone.

Sir Patrick says it is inconsistent that there are limits on constituency spending, but none on national party spending. But he has said that political parties should continue to raise their own money because it keeps them in touch with their supporters.

The following are possible recommendations the committee could make:

  • Disclosing party donation of £1,000 or over (Labour's policy only requires disclosure for donations from £5,000);

  • Abolition of blind trusts - donations made anonymously;

  • Caps on party spending in elections (currently only candidate expenditure is capped).

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